***Trigger Warning: This post mentions suicide.***
Every day, we’re confronted with a choice – do we betray our own needs to keep others happy, or do we say that one little word that’s a complete sentence: “No.”
Why is it so damn hard to say? No seriously, why?!
Why do we feel the need to apologize, make excuses, shrink ourselves, or set ourselves on fire just to keep other people cozy? It’s infuriating, suffocating, and yet I find myself caught in this inner struggle where it feels like no matter what I do, I lose something.
The truth is, most women don’t want to disappoint or upset people. Not all, because I’ve met some of you who simply don’t give a fuck, and I genuinely admire you. I’m in awe of you, and I aspire to be more like you. However, this blog post isn’t for you. You won’t relate to the internal battles and emotions I’m about to describe. It might seem like an enigma to you. But for women who grapple, fight, and claw to preserve their own well-being, even if it sometimes means disappointing others, this will resonate deeply.
I don’t know if women who struggle with saying no were conditioned to be this way or if it’s an inherent part of our nature, or perhaps a bit of both. Honestly, the “why” behind this struggle doesn’t really matter. What does matter is what it costs us and, more importantly, how we can overcome it.
Why It’s Hard
Before we talk about how to start saying no, it’s important to understand why it’s hard for many of us to say it in the first place. If you read my blogs regularly, you probably know this already – it’s because we’re scared and want to avoid feeling bad.
Most of our struggles come from these two things. But here’s the truth: by always saying yes and trying to make everyone happy, we’re not saving ourselves from pain; we’re actually going through more suffering, and I’ll explain that soon.
The issue isn’t that women inherently don’t want to say no. It’s that we fear the emotions that often accompany saying no. Let’s start with guilt, this is one of the most common and persistent feelings we experience because we’re afraid of letting others down or appearing selfish. And as if guilt is heavy enough, here comes anxiety’s bitch ass when we’re contemplating saying no. Bringing us worries about potential conflicts, consequences, and the possibility of hurting someone’s feelings or damaging our relationships. It’s incredibly frustrating, because we know that we are dying from neglecting our own needs, but requiring that they be met feels like it takes extra strength that we don’t have.
And even when we summon the courage to say no, self-doubt comes crashing in, causing us to question whether we made the right choice or if there might have been a better way to handle the situation.
And here is the really subtle, but arguably the most fucked up part:
Hidden beneath all our yeses, is our belief that our worth as women depends on what we can do for others.Arielle Davis
So, when we stop saying yes and giving all the time, we question how valuable we are. Do you know how fucked that is?
But here we are…
We Must Learn to Say No in These Situations
Living lives where our work keeps piling up, and our bosses keep adding more and more tasks, without any sign of a raise or reward. We say yes to it all because we’re scared of looking like we can’t handle it or that we’re not willing to cooperate.
Our schedules are bursting with social events and gatherings. We’re not just tired; we’re falling apart under the weight of all these commitments. But the fear of letting down the people we care about is overwhelming, so we keep saying yes, even though it’s driving us to exhaustion.
And then there’s this invisible pressure to always be there for everyone, whether they’re friends, partners, or even strangers. We’re afraid of failing people, and the scariest part being abandoned because we aren’t enough. It’s not just a challenge; it’s a dire situation that’s taking a serious toll on us. This constant “yes” is pushing us to our limits, and it’s time to find a way out before it completely overwhelms us. Or worse – kills us.
Trigger Warning- Suicide Story Will Follow
I lost a friend to suicide last week. They were an extraordinary person who battled mental health issues for more than 27 years. But what I’m strongly convinced of is that the thing that ultimately led to their passing was the relentless pursuit of being perfect, trying to be everything for everyone. They dedicated so much of their time to striving for perfection, always giving, and measuring their worth by how much they could give. Over time, this took a heavy toll. When their mental health began to deteriorate from overextending themselves and they could no longer give in the ways they used to, they started to feel so unworthy that they made the heartbreaking decision to end their own life.
So when I rage, beg and plead for you to let go of your perfectionism, to find new ways to determine your worth, and to face the feelings of guilt, anxiety, and self-doubt, it’s because I know how much is at risk. I may know it more intimately, deeply, and painfully than I did before. And now I will not stop, until we can fix this.
And one first simple (not easy) step I can help you take is giving you the tools, support and permission to start saying no.
How to Say No
Saying ‘No’ can be a significant milestone in your personal growth journey. Let’s learn how to say no in this step by step guide:
Quick and Dirty
Well the quick and dirty way is to just say it. When do you say no?
Whenever someone asks you to do something and you notice your muscles tightening up, like they’re clenching, even when you’re not trying to flex them, or you feel that fluttery, upset feeling in your stomach, along with a faster heart rate, sweating, nervousness, or funny breathing.
These are clear signs of your body and soul saying, “Say no”. But will you form the words and speak them?
Slowly But Surely
We’ve already established, it’s not that simple. So here’s a step by step process to help get you there:
Step 1: Think About Yourself and Set Rules
Spend time thinking about and making a list of the things that matter to you, what makes you happy and what makes you unhappy. Then use this list to create rules for yourself. Rules that clearly state what you’re okay with and what you’re not. Use the list of things you’re not okay with as your no list. Keep adding to it as you learn more about yourself.
| Related: Top 7 Tools for Introspection
Step 2: Be Kind to Yourself and Ask for Support
Treat yourself kindly, just like you would treat your best friend. When you feel guilty or anxious because you’ve said no, don’t bury those feelings; try to understand them. Breathe, write, or call someone as you process your emotions, and give them space. Just like all feelings, the uncomfortable feelings that come with saying no will pass.
| Related: How to Ask For Help When You Need It
Step 3: Take Care of You
Sometimes, it’s helpful to frame it this way, “I am not saying no to someone else, I am saying yes to myself”. So say yes to yourself and make time for activities that make you happy.
Step 4: Speak Up Kindly and Start with Small Steps
Practice saying no kindly and with confidence. Kind doesn’t mean nice. Being nice means to be pleasant or polite, and the reality is that is not always possible. But even if you’re saying no you can do it kindly, meaning truthfully and genuinely. Start by saying no to smaller things that aren’t very important. As you get better, you can say no to bigger things.
Step 5: Get Help and Support
If this process is super hard for you. I can help. I have built an entire process and curriculum to help you build this skill, and I have also built a community of people to cheer you on and support you through your uncomfortable but transformative journey. Get in touch with me here.
It Won’t Be Easy, But It’s Doable
It’s undeniable that saying “no” can be one of the most challenging yet liberating choices we face in our daily lives. We often find ourselves trapped in the cycle of overcommitting, fearing guilt, anxiety, and self-doubt, and questioning our worth based on what we can do for others. But as we’ve explored, this constant “yes” can exact a heavy toll on our well-being.
I speak from a place of deep personal pain, having recently lost a friend to the relentless pursuit of perfection and the unrelenting pressure to be everything for everyone. Their story is a sobering reminder of the dangers of neglecting our own needs while trying to meet the demands of others. This tragic loss has strengthened my resolve to advocate for change and to help others break free from this damaging cycle.
For those who find this process particularly challenging, know that you’re not alone. There’s a community of support and resources available to help you navigate this transformative journey. I am here to guide and assist you, and I’ve cultivated a community of like-minded individuals who understand the struggles and victories along the way.
The power to say “no” is within your grasp, and together, we can overcome the obstacles that have held us back for far too long. It’s time to take the first step towards a healthier, more fulfilling life. A life that feels good and that you feel proud of.